OUR VIEW: Ravenna Arsenal site still in the running

Possible defense facility could be multi-billion dollar investment

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Whether a proposed ballistic missile interceptor site is ever built remains a big "if" -- there is no funding in the Pentagon's present budget for it -- but the news that the Ravenna Arsenal remains in the running as a possible location for the facility is exciting nonetheless.

Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, which is located on the arsenal site east of Ravenna in eastern Portage County, is among four locations being considered by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Missile Defense Agency as an interceptor deployment site. One potential site was dropped from the list released Friday by federal officials, who confirmed that Portage County is still under consideration for the multi-billion dollar project.

The next step will be for the Defense Department to conduct an environmental impact study to assess Camp Ravenna's suitability for the site.

According to Sen. Rob Portman, the Defense Department's initial assessment "confirmed that Ravenna is well suited to fulfill this important mission." He noted the strategic location of Northeastern Ohio, its infrastructure and available workforce among the assets "making it a leading contender" for the project. Portman and Ohio's other senator, Sherrod Brown, support the project.

The sprawling former arsenal site is already owned by the federal government, which acquired the property in 1940. That could be another factor in its favor. So could the fact that it has had no permanent residents since then, which means there would be no relocation or eminent domain issues involved. Whether that is the case for the other three sites being considered could make a difference.

Portman also noted that strong local support for the project could boost Camp Ravenna's chances.

There are many "ifs" remaining, not the least of which is the lack of funding for the facility, which could cost up to $5 billion, according to some estimates. The Pentagon's budget also is likely to decrease as efforts to close the federal deficit continue.

Still, if Camp Ravenna manages to clear the formidable hurdles that lie ahead in the selection process, the federal facility would be an incredible boost for Portage County in terms of jobs and overall economic development, eclipsing the Ravenna Arsenal itself as a transformational investment. The short list has grown shorter, and Portage County is still on it. That's good news.

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